Lithium (Li) is a naturally occurring trace metal that belongs to the alkali family of chemical elements. In its carbonate and citrate form, lithium is often prescribed for bipolar disorder and OCD. Lithium aspartate and lithium orotate are both forms of lithium.
Lithium aspartate is lithium salt bound to aspartic acid (an amino acid). Lithium orotate is lithium salt bound to orotic acid (also known as vitamin B13).
According to the Tahoma Clinic, low-dose lithium aspartate and/or orotate have been used to treat alcoholism and addictions, anxiety, depression and cluster headaches and to prevent brain aging.
What’s the Difference?
Lithium is impossible to absorb without being bound to another substance, also known as a “mineral transporter.” Aspartate and orotate were first used as mineral transporters by Dr. Hans Nieper, a German physician who promoted them as an alternative cancer therapy. In the case of lithium orotate, the mineral transporter is orotic acid. In the case of lithium aspartate the mineral transporter is aspartic acid.
Lithium Aspartate Vs. Lithium Orotate
Most proponents of low-dose lithium therapy such as Dr. Jonathan Wright recommend them equally. However, aspartate is considered to be an excitotoxic amino acid. Excitotoxins are substances that bind to a nerve cell receptor and cause damage via over-stimulation. According to Dr. Russell Blaycock, author of, “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills”, excess aspartate may result in excitotoxic reactions in sensitive individuals.
In contrast to the above, a study conducted at the Baker Medical Research Institute in Australia found that orotic acid on its own may have cardio protective benefits. Orotic acid has also been used for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, hepatitis and premature aging. Body builders sometimes use orotic acid because it is believed to enhance the production of ATP, a key component of cellular metabolism.
One 1979 study published in “The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology” found that lithium orotate decreased the kidney function of rats. However this study has been criticized because the dosages used were much higher than necessary.
Recent studies conducted by the University of Toronto found that orotic acid on its own promoted the formation of liver tumors in rats. Based on this, the European Food Safety Authority concluded that using orotate as a mineral transmitter was a safety concern. There are no long terms studies of either substance, so caution is warranted.
Dr. Hans Nieper discovered that lithium aspartate and lithium orotate were absorbed more efficiently than the commonly prescribed forms of lithium carbonate or lithium citrate. Because of this, the dosages of lithium aspartate and lithium orotate are much lower than the prescription form of lithium.
The recommended dosages of lithium aspartate and lithium orotate range from 10 to 20 milligrams according to the Tahama Clinic. In 2007 an 18-year-old woman overdosed on a supplement containing lithium orotate and was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She experienced nausea and vomiting but otherwise recovered.
Lithium orotate and lithium aspartate are available without a prescription. They are comparable in price.
References and ResourcesTahoma Clinic
Brewer Science Library
"Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy", Volume 12, April 1998
European Food Safety Authority
"Vitamin Research News": Lithium Orotate The Unique, Safe Mineral with Multiple Uses